Writers should be able to write anywhere, they say. Real writers don’t wait for the “perfect conditions,” they shame. Whether in a cafe or a library, in a small bedroom or at the kitchen table, we should be able to create words and worlds and make magic happen on a page.
J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novels in Edinburgh coffee shops, surrounded by places that would wind up in her books (seriously, one of the coffee shops was across the street from what would inspire Tom Riddle’s graveyard). She has said in interviews that the coffee shop offices were better for her writing than her drab, heatless apartment.
I, for one, can’t write just anywhere. At least, not well. My best place to write is outside the home, in coffee shops. Like today. Despite Alabama’s lovely autumn temperature of nearly 90 degrees, I find it difficult to write without a cup of coffee by my side.
Sometimes I do write at home, and sometimes it works brilliantly. I wrap myself in baggy sweats, roll up to my desk in my bedroom, and clack away on my keyboard. A bonus is that I don’t have to worry about looking halfway decent. This is usually what I do on days when I go to my day job because I don’t have to leave the house until the afternoon, and I’d rather relax in my fuzzy socks and oversized T-shirt than go out into the world before it’s necessary.
But, yes, I do my best work outside of the home. And it’s because I know that there is a best environment for my craft. I mean, Tim Duncan didn’t need an NBA gym to train in to be the greatest basketball player in the world, but I’m sure it helped. And J.K. Rowling didn’t need those coffee shops, but without them would Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, any of it be the same? Who knows!
Everyone has that space they feel most comfortable in when they’re writing. And comfort, that’s key, because if you are feeling out of sorts while writing you won’t get as much done and you won’t have that satisfied feeling when you’re finished, like you’ve accomplished something incredible.
So, here are my steps to finding your perfect writing environment:
1 – Try out a few options
Before I realized that cafes were my space, I tried writing outdoors, in libraries, in the student lounge when I was still in college. The first place was too bright and the other two places made me sleepy. Then I went to the Starbucks on campus. Before I knew it, I was writing at a near constant pace, while enjoying a sweet treat. The work I produced in the coffee shop was substantial, and each day I left with a sense of pride for what I had accomplished.
2 – Discover why the space is special
After a few days writing at Starbucks, I realized what I needed to work: food and sounds. I must have lived off of the banana bread and blueberry scones from the cafe’s bar, and the light music playing over the speakers made my short breaks from scribbling enjoyable. Not to mention, if I was stuck on a thought or needed inspiration, the background conversations helped me get ideas for dialogue (and also learn that Sheryl does not want her boyfriend to propose with a “cute” ring).
3 – Recreate the environment
Not every day is a perfect writing day, and sometimes you can’t make it to your special space. My wallet and time do not allow me to go to Starbucks every day, that’s for sure. So, I recreate the cafe experience in my home. I brew some coffee and make a snack, I turn on some soft music or the news for some background noise, and voilá. Starbucks conditions, and I don’t even have to change out of my pajamas.
4 – Find out the best time to work
I’m more of a morning owl, rather than a night lark. Not that I’m up everyday at 5 a.m. or anything like that, but I do find I get a lot of my best work done before noon. Often I think you’ll find that your best time to write will coincide nicely with your ideal writing space. For me, working in the mornings in a coffee shop is perfect, because most of them open early and have the best treats earlier in the day, and more people are available to eavesdrop on when I’m hitting a wall.
5 – Write in your ideal space as often as possible
It’s unrealistic to think you can work in that perfect writing space everyday, but it is important to try to work there at least twice a week. That’s what I strive for, on my days off when I have time and money to sit in a coffee shop all morning, because this is the place where I can write the best. It would be absurd for me to write somewhere else full-time, when this is the space that is most conducive to my creativity. We’re writers, and we can write anywhere. But we know where we need to be for optimal performance, and as such we should make an effort to find that space and write the stories we’re meant to.
So, where do you write? What helps you have a good writing day, and when is your best writing time? Let me know!